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Ballot order set by drawing for Arizona’s upcoming GOP presidential primary

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PHOENIX – Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio grimaced as he scanned the square of paper pulled from a historic trophy offered by Secretary of State Ken Bennett.

He had drawn the number 17, meaning that Texas Gov. Rick Perry, the GOP presidential candidate he’s endorsed, will appear far down the ballot for Arizona’s Feb. 28 presidential preference election.

House Speaker Andy Tobin, R-Paulden, smiled when he drew No. 9 for his candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and representatives of former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas seemed satisfied to see them place sixth and seventh, respectively, ahead of all other well-known candidates.

The process continued Tuesday in the Old State Capitol’s historic Senate chamber until all 23 qualifying candidates had their spots in the ballot order.

A number of those on the ballot are Arizonans who submitted the required documentation. Those include Donald Benjamin of Phoenix, who will appear first.

Lisa James, executive director of Gingrich’s Arizona campaign, said she was pleased with her candidate’s ballot position.

“Your voters are dedicated to you, and they’re going to find your name on the ballot wherever that may be, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to be the first of the major candidates,” James said.

David Berman, senior research fellow at Arizona State University’s Morrison Institute of Public Policy, said the ballot order has the potential to influence undecided voters.

“When people get a long list of names like that, they’ll vote for the first one that they’re familiar with,” Berman said.

The drawing also established an order for six Green Party candidates, the first of whom will be Jill Stein.

Bennett, a Republican who is supporting Romney, manned the trophy, which the New York Naval Shipyard gave to the USS Arizona in 1915, and announced the results.

As for the large number of candidates on the GOP ballot, Bennett said that Arizona has among the easiest requirements for qualifying: submitting a two-page document including original signatures from the candidate and a notary public.

Arizona’s primary follows primaries and caucuses in nine other states and falls a week before Super Tuesday. Bennett said Arizona’s results will be important regardless of where the race stands at that point.

“To the voters of each of those states, including Arizona, it’s a very important motion to go through whether you’re first or 50th,” he said.